NL ROY 2013: Yasiel Puig vs. Jose Fernandez Debate Shows Need For Rookie Pitching Award

By Marilee Gallagher
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the NL Rookie of the Year for 2013, the options are really down to two candidates. The first is Yasiel Puig, the polarizing star that almost single-handedly brought the Los Angeles Dodgers to the playoffs, and Jose Fernandez, the phenom pitcher for the Miami Marlins that is already one of the best right-handers in baseball.

Both should win and if this was a debate for NL MVP, both would win. Puig would be given the MVP, and Fernandez the Cy Young. Everybody is happy, everybody wins.

The only problem is that this can’t happen. Unlike the other award, there is not a separate distinction for the best rookie pitcher. There should be though, and Puig vs. Fernandez is the perfect example as to why.

To compare the stats of a pitcher and position player is always tough because the one big discrepancy is games played. This has always been the biggest argument as to why a pitcher shouldn’t deserve an MVP. At best, they’ll impact 33-35 games in a single season, while position players can realistically be involved in the outcome of all 162.

So in most cases, it is easy to take this argument and eliminate a pitcher from MVP contention. And the reason why this works is because that pitcher is going to win the Cy Young. That is probably what is going to happen this year with Clayton Kershaw winning the Cy Young and somebody like Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto or Freddie Freeman winning the MVP.

That is all fine and good but for the rookies, it won’t come down to this. There are two deserving candidates but only one will win, and the other will walk away completely empty-handed.

Of all eligible NL rookies with at least 75 games played, Puig leads in AVG (.325), OBP (.395) and SLG (.546). Puig is also the best in his class in runs (65) and doubles (28). He places third in hits (121) and HR (19) and is fifth in RBI. Of all rookies, he is the only one that finishes in the top-five of every single offensive category.

Fernandez paces all rookies and all but one NL pitcher (Kershaw) with his glistening 2.19 ERA. He is third in the NL in WHIP (0.98), leading all rookies in that category as well. Fernandez leads all rookies in strikeouts (187) and if he had not been shut down a few weeks early with an innings limit, he probably would have hit the 200 mark. He is also top-five in innings pitched (172.2) and in games won (12).

In short, Fernandez has hands down been the best rookie pitcher and Puig has been the best rookie hitter. It is impossible, not to mention unfair, to compare them. Yes, Puig’s Dodgers are going to the playoffs but without Fernandez, the Marlins probably would have lost close to 120 games. Puig has had incredible success against some of the best pitchers, while Fernandez has shut down some of the NL’s best offenses.

The only real comparison that can be made could be the one time these two faced each other, and that resulted in Puig going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. But with a sample size so small, nothing can really be made of this.

Ultimately, Puig and Fernandez both deserve this award and if MLB were smart, they would let these young and talented stars be the final straw that leads to the creation of a rookie of the year pitching award. And really, it is kind of shocking that such an award has yet to exist.

After all, the MVP has its Cy Young counterpart, there is both a hitters’ (AVG, HR, RBI) and pitchers’ (W, ERA, SO) Triple Crown, and both the Silver Slugger and Gold Gloves are awarded to each position. I think all of that considered and thinking ahead to the outcome of the 2013 race, it only makes sense for a rookie pitchers’ award. Hopefully, MLB will see it that way too.

Marilee Gallagher is a baseball writer for You can follow her on Twitter @MGallagher17 like her page on Facebook, or join her network on Google.


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